Floating Sparkly Gold for Coffee

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Japan is coffee savvy. The streets of metropolitan Tokyo are dotted with hip, trendy cafes serving up pricey lattes and espressos. And for those on the go, there are vending machines dispensing cans of coffee. In summer, the cans are even chilled and also heated in winter. How do you impress the country that invented canned vending machine coffee? With gold. At Asia's largest pharmaceutical industry exhibition, Japan's Tsukioka Co. Ltd. showed off gold that should spice up dull cups of Joe. The company is best known for making those eatable breath mint-type film, but is trying to build up the gold eating business. Called "Kin Kirara" (Sparkly Gold), these thin, pure gold word and character blocks are able to withstand hot java, not to mention look nice on cakes. According to Tsukioka, the pure gold helps refresh the human body—next to "Happy Birthday," it says "longevity" in Japanese kanji. Don't let the shine scare your wallet off, little packets are available at stores like Tokyu Hands for ¥500 ($4) a pop. But really, can you put a price on drinking cups of coffee with gold letters? by Brian Ashcraft

What better way to surprise that significant other than with a message secreted away in a coat pocket or under a pillow to be discovered later? These small plastic vials are a sort of a "message in a bottle" to break all kinds of news. The possibilities are limited only by your sense of humor or decency. But seriously, these mischievous tubes are less than two inches long so can be hidden discreetly. It's a way to leave a secret note with all the sweetness of a Damien Hirst-style reference to the pharmaceutical industry in the era of over-prescription. They're just over $3 each from Poketo.

The Basics Contest Winners

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"If you want to cook well you can't do it without the basics. If you want to experiment, you need these basics even more." From chicken stock to foie gras foam, it's all explained in The Basics: The Techniques of Continental Cooking. Due out in the U.S on 15 June 2007, it's available for pre-order from Amazon. The following three winners were chosen from hundreds who submitted their favorite basic recipe for our "Basics Contest." Each winner will receive an autographed copy of the book. Leading off, Nasi Lemak is a basic recipe from Malaysia where it's a breakfast staple. Nasi Lemak (Fragrant Coconut Milk Rice), Gary H. 2 cups rice (preferably Basmati), rinsed and drained 2 cups coconut milk 1 cup water 3 Pandan (Screwpine) leaves, knotted 1/2 fresh ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced 1/2 fresh lemongrass stalk 2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped 1/4 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds 1 teaspoon salt Rinse the rice thoroughly and drain. In a pot over medium heat, stir together the rice, coconut milk and water. Add the Pandan leaves, ginger, lemongrass, shallots, fenugreek seeds and salt into the pot. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes until all of the water has been absorbed. Loosen the rice with a wooden ladle. Cover using a tight-fitting lid and steam the rice on very low heat for about 10 minutes or until rice is completely cooked. Gently fluff the rice. See the next two winning recipes after the jump The Ultimate Poached Egg, Sergio V. 1 egg 1 tablespoon vinegar Fill a medium-sized skillet with 3 inches of water and put on high heat. As the water starts to boil lower heat and add vinegar. Crack egg into a cup and place cup into the water, tilting it slightly until egg comes out. Turn the heat off immediately and cover the skillet with the lid. Wait one to three minutes depending on how you like the yolk. Take the egg out with a strainer and enjoy over a salad or with your favorite sauce. Classic Risotto, John C. 1 litre vegetable/chicken stock 1 tablespoon olive oil 3 shallots or 2 medium onions, finely chopped 1/2 head of celery, finely chopped 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped 400 g risotto rice 100 ml dry white vermouth or dry white wine 70 g butter 100 g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated Sea salt and black pepper Heat the stock. In a separate pan heat the olive oil, add the shallot or onion, celery and a pinch of salt. Sweat the vegetables for about three minutes. Add the garlic and rice when the vegetables have softened. Turn up the heat. While stirring continuously, begin to fry the rice. You don't want any color at any point so keep careful control of temperature and keep the rice moving. After two or three minutes it will begin to look translucent as it absorbs all the flavors of your base (it may crackle at this point, that's fine). Add the vermouth or wine, continuing to stir as it hits the pan. Once the vermouth or wine seems to have cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a pinch of salt. Turn down the heat to a medium-high simmer. To avoid uneven cooking of rice be careful not to boil too high. Continue adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring and allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, add butter and parmesan, saving a little of the latter to go on top if you like. Stir gently. Eat it as soon as possible while it retains moist texture. Enhance by adding different seasonal ingredients.

Mechanical Music Box

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The Mechanical Music Box comes with paper strips and a hole punch for DIY music-making without a need for actual musical talent. The little devices presents endless possibilities for creating your own melodies, covering pop songs or to add a low-tech juvenile sounds to your next remix. It also comes with a pre-punched "Happy Birthday" strip if you're just looking for something gifty. It's available from The Afternoon or The Curiosity Shop.

Photo Album Alternatives

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Recent years have seen several offline products that are a way to enjoy all the digital photos that otherwise end up lost to the inner depths of our hard drives or on Flickr servers. For a mom looking to show off photos, we put together a few options that make for a great Mother's Day gift—also allowing her to boast how amazing her kids are for finding such a clever way to display digital pics. We've also included some of the "no-brainers" that are quality gifts but shine more for your lovingly selected pictures than for innovation. Be sure to check out the recently-launched Moo Notecards as well that we reported here on Cool Hunting earlier this month. (Pictured above left.) Blurb, currently in beta, is a helpful way to get your photos into a professional quality book. (Pictured above right.) Fully customizable, just download the Blurb Book Smart bookmaking software for a step-by-step guide to format a book featuring your latest travel photos. Include captions, text and logos—Blurb allows you to make virtually any type of book you want. Prices start at $13 for a formatted, bound and delivered book. Order today to get in time for Mother's Day. Like Blurb, other sites offer services to make your own book, such as Tabblo and Lulu, both recommended for their quality printing and ease-of-use. But if you'd rather leave the production entirely to someone else, try Hammond Editions. (Pictured left.) Culling the talents of a fine art photographer, an award-winning graphic designer and a photography director, Hammond Editions is a team that makes bespoke books to intimately document the people and places in your life. The custom-made editions are portraits—like a generations-old family home or a painter's work and her apartment—taken to the level of an heirloom-quality book. A keepsake of that caliber doesn't come cheap however, Hammond Editions start at $25,000—start saving now for Mother's Day 2010. Kodak's slowly but surely catching up with the times and offering more and more digital-friendly services. Their services stands out for the clean, modern look and quality construction. (Pictured far right.) Fill a whole album by uploading your photos to view and edit here. Snapfish also offers an online service allowing users to upload photos to make hardbound books or a paperback version, but their Pocket Books are perfect for portability. (Pictured above left.) May we suggest making a flipbook? $15 for three from Snapfish. A couple new gadgets making the rounds make carrying around wrinkled paper photos of your loved ones in your wallet a thing of the past. I keep them in my cellphone, but this new digital photo wallet could put them back in a wallet. The removable 1.4" digital photo viewer stores up to 55 color images and is rechargeable. The wallet is fully functional and made of soft Nappa leather. Available for $50 here. via Gizmodo. Amazon or Ambient Weather.

The Basics: The Techniques of Continental Cooking

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This book of essential techniques and basic recipes was a success in Belgium, France and the U.K., and is finally coming out in the U.S. on 15 June 2007. This small black book with gilt pages packs a much larger punch than its size infers. The basics covers all of the culinary bases, including classics and new techniques such as sous vide and foams. Each basic is presented on a single page, with a photo on the facing page. The writing and recipes are straightforward and very manageable (by Filip Verheyden), and the photography (by Tony Le Duc) is beautifully shot. We've got three copies to give away to CH readers. To enter, go to the "Contact" form at the bottom of the home page and select "The Basics contest." Send us your favorite basic. The top three will be posted on the site, and each reader will receive an autographed copy of the book. Please submit your entry by Midnight, 24 April 2007. The Basics: The Techniques of Continental Cooking is available at Amazon and Amazon UK.

Agelio Batle: Graphite Sculptures

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Agelio Battle is an artist living in San Francisco. His sculpture tries to "find epiphany in mundane materials" such as maps, newspaper, dictionaries and pencil lead. The latter has found its way into an expanding series of accessible sculptures that are not only works of art, but also functional drawing tools. The objects he chooses are often organic and geometric shapes and are inspired by his background in biology and passion for the outdoors. They are then cast using carbonaceous graphite, which sets smudge-free. The entire sculpture can be used like a pencil, as its entire surface is graphite. Each sculpture is produced in a limited series. Prices start around $45 and are available at Agelio Batle's ABS Workshop.

MerriMail Giveaway

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MerriMail is a creative subscription service that delivers themed surprise gifts four times a year. For Cool Hunting readers, we have their third and latest edition to give away. See below for instructions. While there are many other gift-of-the-month clubs and print subscriptions, Merrimail is one of the few combining the two. Each issue is a unique gift accompanied by a newsletter that explains the theme of the issue. Highlighting various concepts and ideas related to the theme, provides insight, background and reason for the particular gift item. Another key difference setting MerriMail apart from the usual ad-heavy subscription based services, the quarterly gift program is entirely subscription-driven, leaving you to enjoy the colorful packaging and seasonal treat unfettered by promotions. The theme of the Spring 2007 issue (now shipping) is "Nature's Bounty." A perfect Mother's Day gift, a year subscription is $88 here. Previous individual issues are also available to view and purchase from MerriMail. Or to try your hand at winning, follow the contact link at the bottom of the page, select "Merrimail Giveaway" from the pull-down menu and send us a message before this Wednesday, 11 April 2007, 11:59pm EST. We'll chose a winner at random from the submissions.

Fontifier Personal Font

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Fontifier offers a simple (write and scan) and inexpensive ($9) method to create a personalized font based on your handwriting. The seven step process requires a printer and scanner. You can create your font with up to four templates, allowing for different weights, italics, doodles, etc. Once you've uploaded it you can preview it prior to purchasing it. Each template or version costs $9. Fontifier produces a TrueType font which can be installed on both Mac and PC, and can easily be edited using FontLab or TypeTool.

Li Xi Gift Envelopes

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Those of us who still haven't started our holiday shopping can take comfort in knowing that we are still in time to celebrate Chinese New Year in style. These Li Xi Gift Envelopes are a beautiful way to usher in the Year of the Pig. The laser cut envelopes, traditionally used to give gifts of "lucky money" to family and friends, are inspired by ancient Chinese papercuts. Created by Portland-based husband-and-wife team Design Night, each delicate crepe paper envelope is hand assembled and feature intricate silhouettes and shadows inspired by the Chinese Zodiac. The Li Xi Gift Envelopes start at $6.50 for one envelope.

GoodStorm T-Shirt Wizard

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Photo tees are always a hit when it comes time for gift-giving, but the lead time means last-minute shoppers are out of luck unless they opt for GoodStorm's new T-Shirt Wizard Gift Package. An instant gift at $25, Goodstorm sends the recipient an e-card with a link that takes them to a site where they can create their own t-shirt with photos, graphics and text. The flash-based interface is straightforward enough for even those with basic web skills and their new t-shirt will arrive in 10-12 business days.

Gorillaz Giveaway

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Like the concept itself, Gorillaz: Rise of the Ogre is a part fictional, part real account of the band's rise to fame. Faux interviews and Jamie Hewlett's illustrations, as well as a few real photos, make up the hardcover book, bringing out both imagined and true-to-life details. Highlights include track-by-track "making of" stories, British humor and, overall, behind-the-scenes insight into one of the most innovative and successful creative projects of recent years. Though Gorillaz: Rise of the Ogre has been out since last month, CH has three copies to give away to three readers, who will also get a poster and a full set of the Kid Robot Gorillaz CMYK toys (pictured left). We'll award these prizes to the first three readers who tell us what mode of transportation the Gorillaz guitarist Noodle arrived in when they were first forming the band, according to Rise of the Ogre. To enter, follow the contact link at the bottom of the page, select "Gorillaz contest" from the pull down menu and send us your answers before this Thursday, 21 December 2006, 11:59pm EST.

Fling, a Chicago based company, aims to bring art to the general public by transforming works of fine art into accessible everyday objects. Based on the installation "1,000 White Lies" by artist Annie Feldmeier Adams, The Little Box of Lies Buttons feature various phrases like "I'm listening," "It's great to be here," "I promise" and "You look great." Using these less-than-sincere clichés, the buttons poke fun at misguided good intentions and the conventions of small talk. The Little Box of Lies also come in magnet form and both the magnets and the pins are $6 and are four to a box. Also from Fling, One Less Bag ($10) features an image from photographer Aron Cohen silkscreened on a canvas tote bag. The lightweight tote can easily be folded to tuck away in a purse or pocket for those of us who are tired of accumulating petroleum-based plastic bags that are a nightmare to store.

Artist Beach Towels

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A huge hit at the Deitch/Paper store that took place last week in Miami during Art Basel, these artist-designed beach towels ($50) are for those who want to wrap themselves in art. Featuring works by Alex Katz, Marilyn Minter, Richard Phillips and Rob Pruitt (pictured above from L-R), the towels are gigantic (measuring 60"x70"), soft and the colors look great in terry cloth. Though they're currently sold out at Target, you can try your luck faxing an order form to the non-profit behind the project, Works On Whatever.

Jack Spade Prison Key Ring

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Handmade by inmates in a Montana prison, the detail on these Jack Spade Prison Key Rings is astounding. Tightly woven horsehair forms a loop around a split ring—perfect for the urban cowboys on your list. The Prison Key Ring is $75 and available in assorted colors (unfortunately, you don't get to pick) from Jack Spade.

Custom-blended and available exclusively at BASE and through Cool Hunting, SAND already enjoys a legion of fans throughout the world for not only its extraordinary scent but also its unique viscosity. Unlike a "regular" scent SAND is richly emollient and oil-based allowing for a concentrated and enduring fragrance. This special blend features many organic ingredients including oils of Bergamot, Orange, Musk, Patchouli and Lavender. It is equally popular and easily worn by either gender. It comes in a 4 oz. bottle with a fine spray attachment. $48, Buy it at BASE